A Grammy Award-nominated and UK Music Video Awards-winning director is hosting a Director’s Talk on Saturday, marking the start of two brand new festivals for Blackpool. 

David Wilson, who’s produced music videos for the likes of Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, David Guetta and Paloma Faith, hosts his talk entitled What Can I Do When I Can’t Do That!? at Aunty Social at 7pm on Saturday – the official launch event for both Blackpool Film Festival and Queer Amusements. 

A queer director, Wilson specialised in work that is often radical, subversive, and goes against the grain. His career spans over 15 years of working in advertising and music videos.

David Wilson

The newly christened Blackpool Film Festival is an evolution of the Winter Gardens Film Festival, which has a long track record of bringing alternative film culture to Blackpool. The name change marks an expansion of the programme for 2024, a year that will see the festival popping up in venues including the new Backlot Cinema. 

Wilson’s Director’s Talk is also the inaugural event for Queer Amusements, a new festival of ground-breaking multi-disciplinary performances and events for Blackpool which sees Blackpool’s award-winning performance artist and theatre maker Harry Clayton-Wright at the helm. 

Wilson has previously worked with Clayton-Wright, who co-wrote and starred in their short film collaboration Deep Clean (Official Selection SXSW, Iris Prize Cardiff, NewFest New York, Fringe! Queer Arts and Film Fest London). He’s the first of many notable queer artists Clayton-Wright is bringing to Blackpool in this groundbreaking new programme of events. 

Bringing a programme of art and entertainment to one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in the UK, Queer Amusements events will take place across Blackpool from Spring through Autumn 2024.

From public art, to award-winning dance performance, artist talks, workshops and a drag pageant, Queer Amusements will also bring top-tier queer talent such as Scottee, Kuchenga Shenjé, Travis Alabanza, Krishna Istha and Thick and Tight to Blackpool, alongside Blackpool artists Garth Gratrix, and fierce femme DJ, dance and drag collective HerHouse, for this inaugural project highlighting LGBTQ+ artists both from the town and across the UK.

The work I make often sits somewhere between art and entertainment; often both at once. It can be camp, irreverent, but always joyful and with heart.

Blackpool-based critically-acclaimed performance artist and theatre maker Harry Clayton-Wright spent many years performing on Blackpool Promenade before starring in cabaret productions that took him on tours across the globe, including Clayton-Wright’s Total Theatre Award nominated and Brighton Fringe award winning debut solo theatre show Sex Education, and his 107-hour immersive performance art installation, The Slumber Party. 

Harry Clayton-Wright

Having moved back to Blackpool, Clayton-Wright is now bringing this feast of art and performance home. Commissioned by Marlborough Productions, as part of their national series of trailblazing festivals across the country, New Queers On The Block, and co-commissioned from community arts organisation Aunty Social, Queer Amusements promises to bring eclectic mix of art and culture to Blackpool audiences.

“The work I make often sits somewhere between art and entertainment; often both at once. It can be camp, irreverent, but always joyful and with heart,” Clayton Wright says. “I’ve been fortunate to build a career around that and I can definitely trace Blackpool as an influence through all the work I’ve made and how I approach my practice. 

“Dancing across mediums, from cabaret to film to performance art, devising and performing theatre work, as well as producing events all feels very natural to me – the primary focus is the audience and the message finds the medium. Queer Amusements is the logical next step in my career and I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to bring it to life.”

Highlights of Queer Amusements include an artist talk by award-winning writer, performer, and theatre maker Travis Alabanza on 9 May. Alabanza will delve into their own artistic process and encouraging new creatives to develop their own autobiographical practice.

Writer, journalist and speaker, Kuchenga Shenjé’s will be in conversation with Alexis Caught – author of bestseller Queer Up – about Shenjé’s historical debut novel, The Library Thief, which combines her passion for history, mystery and rebels. This event will take place at Aunty Social on 16 May.

Thick and Tight’s Tits and Teeth, is a collection of best bits from the award-winning duo’s back catalogue. It celebrates high and low art in all its variety, splendour and stupidity, combining dance, satire, mime, drag and lipsync to create this retrospective of a dazzling career. It comes to Blackpool Grand Theatre on 28 June.

Star of Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special Gender Agenda and writer on series Sex Education, Krishna Istha joins Queer Amusements for a Creating Autobiographical Performance Work workshop on 11 July – also part of The Old Electric’s Power Plays Writing Festival and Blackpool’s Comedy Festival. Their work spans comedy, theatre, screenwriting and performance art.

Garth Gratrix

Blackpool-based contemporary visual artist Garth Gratrix will present this own public art exhibition, Flamboyant Flamingos at the Grundy Art Gallery from July until September. It marks Gratrix as the first hometown artist to have the main summer show at the gallery. As part of the exhibition, Gratrix will illuminate the exterior of the gallery with morse code through neon, communicating a poignant statement of being a total and utter Mummy’s Boy.

Multi-award winning artist and performer Scottee, will be hosting Fancy a Turn?, a cabaret and performance development workshop, 2-7 September, and showcase on 6 September. Along with Clayton-Wright Scottee will then host a seaside soiree, Chippy Tea, at Aunty Social on 12 September.

Meanwhile, Blackpool’s Funny Girls veteran and Virgin Voyages’ on board drag queen Titty Kaka hosts a develop your own drag persona Workshop Weekender, running 14th-15th September. And in more exciting drag announcements, STUNNING! – An Alternative Drag Pageant will take place at an iconic Blackpool Location on 28th September; a clever play on the town’s famous Bathing Beauties swimsuit competitions of the ‘50s and ‘60s featuring drag queens, kings and things, hosted by Harry Clayton-Wright and Titty Kaka. Exciting guests and on sale date to be announced.

Titty Kaka

Also part of the programme are craft workshops from local tufting extraordinaire Alena Ruth Donely and The Bearded Sewist, who recently went viral for their incredible Studio Ghibli-inspired sweater, with the Queer Craft Club at Aunty Social. Workshops dates to be released soon.

Queer Amusements is very much a continuation of the way I’ve approached my work and also reflects the amazing connections and friendships I’ve made with artists in and outside of the town and the venues and organisations I’ve built links with over many years.

Finally, with the support of Blackpool Social Club, Queer Amusements has commissioned its very first Writer in Residence, Jane Claire Bradley. Bradley is an award-winning queer, working-class writer, performer, therapist and educator who will develop new work inspired by the festival. All of her new work will be published on Blackpool Social Club and included in the Queer Amusements programme. Look out for her inaugural blog later this week. 

“Queer Amusements is very much a continuation of the way I’ve approached my work and also reflects the amazing connections and friendships I’ve made with artists in and outside of the town and the venues and organisations I’ve built links with over many years,” says Clayton-Wright. “With the support of Marlborough Productions, who I’ve been an Associate Artist with since 2016, and Aunty Social, we’ve assembled an incredible team (small but mighty) and been able to start building infrastructure around this idea of producing a brand new multi-artform festival in the town and what that can look like or be. 

“The world renowned artists we’re working with are so excited about coming to Blackpool and I can’t wait to see how the work translates with audiences, creatives and how we learn and grow year on year.”

To book David Wilson’s – What Can I Do When I Can’t Do That!? at Aunty Social on Saturday 27th April click here. To see the full programme for Queer Amusements click here. Keep your eyes on Blackpool Social to follow the work of our new writer in residence Jane Claire Bradley. 

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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